International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 856–871 | Cite as

You are Not Welcome: Social Exchanges between Female Spider Monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi)

  • Juan Carlos RiverosEmail author
  • Colleen M. Schaffner
  • Filippo Aureli


Group living leads to competition for food between group members. Two types of intragroup food competition may occur: scramble competition, in which all group members use the same resource, such that feeding opportunities are equal for everyone; and contest competition, in which some group members monopolize resources through aggression and dominance. In species in which females disperse from the natal group and immigrate into other groups, immigrant females increase group size and thus possibly food competition. Under these circumstances, other females may use aggression to discourage new females from joining the group. We assessed the distribution of aggression, embraces, and kisses among female spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) in relation to group tenure. We recorded social interactions during 1688 10-min focal animal samples on 11 females in Santa Rosa, Costa Rica. We found that aggression was rare between long-term resident females and aggression rates were not higher during feeding than in other contexts, suggesting there was little contest competition. Long-term residents and less recently immigrant females showed higher aggression rates toward the most recent immigrants than toward other females, especially during the first months after a female immigrated, which coincided with the dry season. We did not find similar patterns for embrace and kiss. These results suggest that other females target aggression toward the most recent immigrants to reduce scramble competition. This finding suggests that group tenure should be included in socioecological models for species with female dispersal.


Aggression Female dispersal Fission–fusion Food competition Tenure 



We thank the Guanacaste Conservation Area, Santa Rosa sector, for facilitating our research at the site. Thanks to Elvin Murillo Chacon for the support in the field. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers and the editor for their comments on an early version of the article. This study was supported by a scholarship obtained by J. C. Riveros from the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, México (CONACYT). The long-term project has been supported by Chester Zoo, the National Geographic Society, the Leakey Foundation, and CONACYT.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Neuroetología, Universidad VeracruzanaVeracruzMexico
  2. 2.Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology, Liverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK

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